used to track drivers?

The New York Civil Liberties Union yesterday sent the NYPD and transportation agencies requests for city and state records to determine if E-Z Pass readers are being used to track drivers outside toll areas.

The records request was filed after the NYCLU created a video of its lawyer, Nate Vogel, driving around Manhattan with a device created by an anonymous privacy activist that detects E-ZPass readers.

The device, which looks like a small toy cow mounted on a dashboard, was "going off almost constantly during a drive through midtown and lower Manhattan -- in areas free of toll collection booths," the NYCLU said in its release.

"New Yorkers have a right to know if their use of toll-paying technology is secretly being used to track their innocent comings and goings," said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman.

Representatives from the NYPD and city and state Department of Transportation did not return requests for comment.

NYU expansion put

on hold by judge

A state judge in Manhattan ruled yesterday that parts of an New York University expansion project that critics contend could destroy its historic neighborhood can't move forward without state approval.

State Supreme Court Judge Donna Mills ruled that NYU needs to get permission from the state Legislature for parts of the school's 1.9 million-square-foot expansion because it would impact strips of land being used as public parks.

"Respondents alienated public park land without approval by the New York State Legislature in violation of the Public Trust Doctrine," she wrote.

A coalition of community groups and residents had filed suit against the university in 2012, criticizing the plan. But supporters said the expansion would help NYU's ability to attract top students.

In a statement, NYU said the decision reaffirmed the city's approval of the project.

The city said the decision was under review.

Charity puts out call

for more coats

New York Cares said yesterday there's an urgent need for more coats for its annual coat drive. So far this winter, New Yorkers have donated 29,000 coats for needy New Yorkers. New York Cares said requests for coats have topped 100,000.

The coat drive ends Feb. 7. Individuals and companies can donate gently used, freshly laundered coats at hundreds of locations throughout the city.

Drop-off locations include all NYPD precincts, Bryant Park, the New York Cares warehouse and many other sites.

Diplomat's case still

under negotiation

The U.S. attorney in Manhattan has engaged in hours of discussions in an effort to resolve the case against an Indian diplomat whose arrest triggered an outcry in her homeland.

The New York Times reported that court papers filed by the prosecutor's office said the government "outlined reasonable parameters for a plea" with Devyani Khobragade. But it said the defendant has not responded.

She is accused of fraudulently obtaining a work visa for her New York City housekeeper. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said his office is open to further discussions.

Ex-cop cleared

on menacing rap

A former New York City police officer has been cleared of holding a gun to a massage parlor worker and refusing to pay.

Johnny Huang was given a conditional dismissal in Queens court Monday. He had been charged with menacing and harassment charges. He had maintained that salon workers fabricated the story. He said he was at the salon to "investigate human trafficking" on his own while off duty.

Huang was assigned to the 115th Precinct in Queens. He resigned in September days before receiving a termination letter.

His attorney told the Daily News that the dismissal vindicates his client. A spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown called it "an appropriate disposition."Compiled with

wire service reports

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